Boeing says it needs orders for up to 30 777-200Xs before it will consider launching the much delayed ultra long range derivative.

"We need 30 aircraft from a couple of airlines and we're all set to go," says product marketing regional director, Dan Olason who adds that "around 70% of the development work is done". He says entry into service is still scheduled for late 2001 but is "-maybe sliding a couple of months".

Assembly of the first -200X was originally due to begin in August with construction of the initial -300X following in December. First flight of the -200X was also originally set for January 2000, with entry into service expected in September 2000.

Market uncertainty, the launch of the competing A340-500 and the economic problems of potential Asian customers have conspired to push back the expected service entry date by more than a year. Financial problems have particularly affected airlines like Malaysia Airlines, which was the only carrier to get close to ordering the -200X when it signed a memorandum of understanding in March 1997 covering up to 15 aircraft.

Although Boeing declines to comment, the continuing delay in obtaining a firm launch commitment for the -200X/300X is likely to threaten the existence of the entire programme as Airbus drives towards an entry into service target of early 2002 for its market contender. Boeing has previously stated that much of the marketing effort for the 777-200X had hinged on its earlier service entry potential, an advantage that now appears to have vanished.

In the meantime, Boeing has revealed more details of the timescale for introducing heavier versions of the 777-200IGW (increased gross weight). The heaviest -200IGW so far produced has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 287,000kg, but from line number 140 onwards later this year, will be available with an MTOW of up to 294,200kg. From 1999 a further growth version will be produced with a maximum weight of 297,800kg.

Source: Flight International